Poetry

Poetry

Estancada*

The air in my barrio
bulges with ash, the remains
of dead poets, dried-out painters,
and sick-sounding musicians. Skeletons
of talento that never found breath.

I sit, estancada, in this hole,
condemnation filling me.
My dying ideas crinkle and shuffle
but no one, not even the flea
on a cat’s hairy back, wants them.

Dreams peak in my mind as dusty dirges,
polvo floating down Figueroa to settle,
abandoned. In a one-room apartment
the homeless grow and light fires for the warmth
of words I will never write and they will never hear.




*estancada—stuck, bogged down, stagnating







Laying on of hands

Only with dogs and children
and sometimes a woman weeping
on a bus station bench, hands
folded across her face like a veil.

The stranger passing
can only bring himself to stand
beside her, allow his hand
to settle on her shoulder, fingertips
touching, then lifting, then lighting
poised, muscles taut
for flight at the first ripple.

Only in a public place:
soldiers too sober to notice
a plain woman on a bench.
Widows on pensions, touring America,
passes clutched deep in pants’ pockets.
College kids lost in travel diaries.

Only the janitor, himself invisible as khaki,
sees as he kneels beside the bench
to save his back retrieving
the paper coffee cup—its handles
the halves of a valentine,
unfolding wings,

a woman rising
in a man’s overcoat, wiping her eyes
with a wadded hankie and laughing
at nothing . . . nothing at all.

Green anole at Middleton Place

As I stood, rooted, winter-locked, my hand
outstretched in southern sun, the lizard leapt
to the branch of my arm as if there was nothing
at all to fear. As if I was the tree he sought,
he rested, weightless, green as grass, pink
throat-fan ballooning with each small breath,
and I felt something ease inside, a sweetness
rising, as he ran, quick as raindrops, up my trunk,
toe pads tickling as he touched, oh so lightly, neck,
cheek, hair, like a blessing, or a prayer.

Even now I wing

It stands in the water stilted
head cocked like a hammer; faster
than the eye it hooks a flash of gray and then
a glimpse of silver quickly swallowed.
I wish the canoe to silence,
hold breath with the day a ruffle
of air and feathers an explosion
into grace and it’s gone a hundred
yards away. I begin the painstaking
task of easing oar and self across
the surface towards this totem an avatar
granting pure life, motion, a reason
to be. It wings forth again in perfect
silence and falls perched on the stillness
that stretches its hand out over
the water down deep into the mud the fish
that are blind to the roots into me where
even now I am winging

with the blue heron.